Nobody Knows I’m Here will prove a divisive slow-burn character study, but its eventual tenderness and peculiarity make it fittingly deserving of being seen.
Gaspar Antillo’s feature debut Nobody Knows I’m Here, which is available to stream on Netflix after being slated for the Tribeca Film Festival earlier this year, makes 90 minutes feel like an eternity – and for once that isn’t necessarily a criticism. This strikingly peculiar film will no doubt be divisive thanks to its glacial pace, deliberate, sometimes inelegant elisions, and occasional deviations into surrealist, symbolic fantasy, but its eventual tenderness is what most will take away from its story of a haunted, exploited recluse reclaiming his voice and identity.
That recluse is Memo, played as both a child pop star by Lukas Vergara and an adult sheep farmer by an excellent Jorge Garcia, best known for his role as Hurley in Lost but reinventing himself here, both in and out of the plot’s confines. Isolated on this Chilean farm accessible only by boat, Memo keeps himself hidden and quiet, exposing himself only to his uncle (Luis Gnecco) and their supplier, whose niece (Millaray Lobos) becomes an integral part in Memo finally endeavoring to be seen – and more appropriately heard.
The particulars of Memo’s singing career and its associated trauma are doled out gradually, and tell a perhaps familiar tale of celebrity culture’s seedy underside; Memo is overweight and has never been allowed to forget it, despite an angelic singing voice, and his talent was mined as a resource for a more quintessentially handsome star who would appeal to the baser impulses of a shameless, aesthetics-focused demographic. But Nobody Knows I’m Here treats this idea with such an unhurried, contemplative style that it becomes in many stretches simply an evocative, largely plotless mood piece. It’s in no hurry to get anywhere because the film knows that where it’s eventually going is powerful and sweet enough to make the journey worthwhile.
None of this is to say that the film is perfect. Its on-the-nose dual-meaning title gives away a ham-fisted symbolism that persists all throughout, and like its protagonist, it’s sometimes too tight-lipped for its own good. A scene in which Memo hurls glittery bile finds the film’s messaging at its most unsubtle, and were all its reflections on suppression of the self quite so obvious it’d be a much worse story. But its relatable human element, buoyed by Garcia’s convincingly haunted, mostly wordless performance, matches its nonconformist structure and style. Since Nobody Knows I’m Here is about a man who has hidden himself and the truer expects of his character away, it’s only fitting that it deserves to be seen.
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Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.